question mark on chalk board

So you Could Do It All Better Than Me?

My options in Japan were limited. I had two options: to fight back, to enflame, to counter and escalate, or to comply, do as I was told and do it quietly, and try and work out how to get out of there with the children. To do so took many years. It took my youth, it took my health. I didn’t entirely win, but I am alive.

All these people – both men and women – who tell me they would have fought back, they would have punched him, run him over, taught him a lesson, asserted their strength, all these people that call me a sheep, or pathetic, that suggest I did the wrong thing, all these people who have never been confronted with a person that will kill them if they do not play it right, yet seem to know better than me, what was the correct way to handle the situation and survive, all these people make me sick.

To take it, and to do so quietly was not weakness, it was strength. To control my anger, my reflexes, my desire to fight back, was immensely difficult, and I only managed to take, what I consider physical torture, because I loved my children. I didn’t scream (much), didn’t cry in front of him (hardly ever), I didn’t push away or say more than a quiet “no”, or “please don’t”. The only time I fought back and tried to push him away and slap his hand away, he put his hands around my throat and squeezed. All I could think was that he would probably kill both the children after killing me. I had to remain alive to protect them. I went limp, and as my sight started to fail I tried to make my eyes ask him to stop. The children were sobbing. He dropped me. I lived. This is my truth. To live to fight another day and get away from him. To live to be strong enough, to get the help I needed in order to settle down for a long exile, a running away, another day.

To be told this this woman that they know would have beaten him up, because she was a martial arts whizz, is failing to understand that this situation would have not ended with a beating, it was going to end with a death: mine or his, and I am not killing anyone, not ever. If I had killed him in Japan I would have swung for it. I would have still died. They have the death penalty, and it would have been the trapdoor and rope for me. Besides. I have no desire to kill anyone – unlike him. I wanted us all to live. I wanted to live apart from him. I wanted to escape, untie those knots and no one end up six foot under. I wanted to live. Those dull brained brutal people who see beatings as ways to fix violence, I fear one day will find their comeuppance. You see in those situations, where there is a knife at your neck, hands around your throat, a chair leg beating you unconscious, generally find they are not Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and a potential murder scene is not a dojo. People fall. Heads bang on tables. I have come close to being killed by falling more than once. Even a grown man would have not necessarily walked away from my husband – if fights were not partially games of chance, but all winnable, then boxing would not exist. There are no winners in a fight to the death, and that is what he would insist on. I don’t even want to think about whether or not I could have survived such a fight. The answer is no. Probably not. He had 150 pounds, a foot of height on me, and his male stronger musculature. I am not a violent person. That is not a weakness.

I survived so much pain, so many injuries. I kept the children fed and entertained and educated. I did my best. Who is anyone else to judge me? Find me lacking? Say they could have done better? Do it. Try live with no access to money, no family, no friends because you are not allowed them. Locked in an apartment, with two small children, being beaten to within an inch of your life, and knowing if you leave then you will be called a criminal for not adhering to the Hague Convention and threatened with jail and never seeing your precious children again. Try and survive. Try to not die. Try to take the pain and injuries with no healthcare. Try. And get back to me and tell me how you did. Try to live outside in the USA in order to escape. Try years on the road. Try it, and tell me you could do better, and I will admire your fortitude. I will bestow awards upon you. I will admit you are the better woman. Congratulations. Until that point…I suppose we could agree that you are not me, and you didn’t have to survive my life, and we can move on from a point of understanding instead of ego.

I could not leave and remain in Japan. My visa would expire, and it is impossible to live there without one. He would never allow me to apply for permanent residency. I could not afford Tokyo with two small children, no income, and no childcare. The Japanese system does not work by forcing child support to be paid. The man gets to walk away. Or the woman does. One party gets the kids. No one has to pay a single yen. I had no way to rent an apartment away from him. Child care costs in Tokyo are outrageous, as are rents and living costs. I could not remain within the country without him. I managed to do it as a single woman with no children on a teacher’s salary, but only barely. Besides he would have hunted me down and killed me. I would not be free. My only option was to leave. Punching him out was not going to help the ultimate problem that I had to leave, get away and survive. It would only enflame his murderous intent towards me. I had to make him as gentle towards me as possible, not fuel his fury.

Sitting there in that tatami room, killing the tatami lice with a small spray gun of fumigant, my babies quietly coloring in books, the usual cries of “Pig is gone!” when he left or “Pig’s home!” and the necessary battening down of the hatches, quietening down, going to sleep, playing dead so we didn’t die, was a regular round of horror. He worked long hours, thankfully, so we lived for when he was gone and we ceased to be ourselves when he was home. Golden Week was a terror. An entire week of days off once a year. Sometimes we would get lucky and oh what a shame, he would have to go to work, instead of staying home and terrorizing us!

I am tired of defending myself. I accept I am a loser. I picked the wrong man. I didn’t read the signs. I got unlucky. I got ‘got’. Whatever whichever, it doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I lived. I have my Boy. He is ok. We love each other. We are family. I have the apartment for now. I have food. I am safer, but not entirely free. It is mostly ok. So why does it matter so much to me, why does it infuriate me when others want to tell me I am pathetic and weak and a ‘sheep’? Why do their assertations that they would have punched him out and I am a victim and useless, make me foam at the mouth in fury?

I suppose I never have much enjoyed talking to stupid people.


  1. slpmartin

    Life advice is so easily given but as William Shakespeare noted “It is a good divine that follows his own instructions I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.”

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      To thine own self be true….or else turn Purple Rain up loud and blow the bastards out my hair! I can’t tell anyone else how to survive, it’s true. All I can say is get out of there and follow your gut feelings. These men – and sometimes women – who are monsters, are difficult to call on how to deal with them. I am not even hurt or defensive, just tired of it all. Anyway…I am out now. Quite what others get out of telling me I did it wrong, or telling me I am pathetic, I don’t know. Perhaps the quiet feeling that they are safer, because I did something wrong to make it worse. Perhaps the randomness of it scares them. I don’t know. I think I will be a hermit. Hope you are doing well today. As always, your would-be-friend, Detroit.

  2. Time Traveler of Life

    Japan does no have the monopoly on dead beat and beater Dad’s, we see it all the time here, and now days it isn’t just the Dad’s. There are so many kids in the system that are kicked out at 18 with maybe a high school education. So many throw-away kids! My take on your life is tell everyone to “Go to Hell” and turn your back on them, and look forward to a wonderful last part of your life. I hope with all my heart that you get all the good things you deserve.

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